We’ve Got Talent!

18 Jun

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for 22 After Pentecost 13 Nov 2011

We’ve Got Talent!

In the Book of Judges, God raises up a series of “judges” who have the Spirit of Yahweh upon them.  Every time the Israelites got testosterone-driven and started making war instead of listening to God, He sent them a judge.  The footnote in my Bible says, “The “judges” were regarded as divinely chosen, were rulers and governors who led a tribe or group of tribes in war rather than administrators of justice.”  This is good.  Now we have a definition.  Definitions give us a chance at clarity.  Judges 2:18-19 also adds clarity:

Judges 2:18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

The cast of characters and the judges’ stories back up this concept:

Othniel           (Judges 3:10) The Spirit of God was upon him; he became judge in Israel and set out to fight.  …  And they fought.  They learned the art of war. (v 2)  They gained forty years of well-being.  Othniel died.  The Israelites strayed.

Ehud              (Judges 3:15) He was a lefty.  [He must have been an intelligent dude!]  He made a double-edged dagger [prophetic.]  He used it to stab an obese king in the belly.  This act opened the doors for the Israelites to defeat their oppressors, the Moabites.  They gained eighty years of rest.  The people strayed again.

Deborah        (Judges Chapters 4 and 5) It is consistent: When the “man of God” (one who is anointed by the Spirit of Yahweh) dies, the people stray and forget God.  When Ehud died the people became oppressed by the Canaanites.  At this point in the timeline the people have been oppressed for twenty years.  They go to Deborah.  She sends for Barak [no coincidence that we have one of those on the throne right now.]  Debbie tells him to take ten thousand troops to Mt Tabor.  (The map in my Bible shows Mt Tabor in Galilee.  This, too, is no coincidence.)  She offers to entice Sisera, the Commander of the Canaanite army, to meet him.  Barak doesn’t trust his own relationship with Yahweh.  He does not know how to discern the Voice of God within himself:

Judges 4:8 Barak replied, ‘If you come with me, I shall go; if you will not come, I shall not go, for I do not know how to choose the day when the angel of Yahweh will grant me success.’ (New Jerusalem Bible)

Barak agrees to commit his troops only if Deborah will go with him.  She agrees but warns that the glory of victory will not go to him, but to a woman. 

Judges 4:9 ‘I shall go with you then,’ she said, ‘but, the way you are going about it, the glory will not be yours; for Yahweh will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.’ Deborah then stood up and went with Barak to Kedesh.

As the story unfolds [and the Lectionary did not include all this but stopped at a point as if to say, “The person does not find the Holy Grail; The Holy Grail finds the person, and the Holy Spirit will dump it in your lap,”] the woman who defeats Commander Sisera is a quiet, holy, solitary.  Her name is Jael.  She and her husband live in peace and to themselves not far from Kedesh. (Judges 4:11)  On the day of the battle Commander Sisera flees on foot from the battle and runs to Jael’s isolated tent.  She knows the commander and they have a working relationship. (v 17) He seeks sanctuary.  She gives him milk and puts him to bed.  While he is asleep, she drives a tent stake through his temple all the way to the ground.  [As gory as this story is, notice the symbolism and multiple layers of meanings with the words tent, stake, temple, and ground.]  Meanwhile Barak has been pursuing Sisera.  He arrives at the tent and Jael shows him the man he is looking for.  So in the end Barak’s glory did go to a woman (but not to Deborah.)  After this victory the land enjoyed forty more years of rest. (Judges 5:31) 

Gideon           (Judges Chapter 6 ff) The people strayed.  The Midianites oppressed them for seven years.  God raised up Gideon.  As long as Gideon lived, the land enjoyed rest.  That was forty more years. (Judges 8:28)

Jotham           (Judges 9) When it came to Jotham in the timeline, he addressed the lords of Shecham.  Abimelech had conned his own relatives to put him in power, and then proceeded to slaughter seventy of his own uncles.  [Sound familiar?]  Jotham (who is just a boy) confronts the lords of Shecham with a parable, shouting from the top of Mt Gerizim (in Sameria.)  Again, notice the symbolism and parallels, and that this happens in our day as well:

Judges 9:8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king to rule them. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king!’

9 The olive tree replied, ‘Must I forgo my oil which gives honor to gods and men, to stand and sway over the trees?’

 

10 Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and be our king!’

11 The fig tree replied, ‘Must I forgo my sweetness, forgo my excellent fruit, to go and sway over the trees?’

 

12 Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and be our king!’

13 The vine replied, ‘Must I forgo my wine which cheers gods and men, to go and sway over the trees?’

 

14 Then the trees all said to the thorn bush, ‘You come and be our king!’

15 And the thorn bush replied to the trees, ‘If you are anointing me in good faith to be your king, come and shelter in my shade. But, if not, fire will come out of the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

Notice how Jesus was also each one of these “trees.”  He was the “Olive Tree” forgoing His oil of comfort.  He was the “Fig Tree” forgoing His sweetness.  He was the “Vine” forgoing His “wine.”  He took the Crown of Thorns upon His head so we could shelter in His shade.

In the Lectionary readings for today, the people cry out:

Ps 123:3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

123:4 Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

In Zeph 1:12 God gets upset with “people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will He do harm.”

In Psalm 90:12 the people request: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”

In 1 Thes 5:2-3 Paul says:

5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

Beginning with the ‘Panic of 2008’ stock market crash, we have been witnessing these labor pangs.  The stock market crashed followed by the housing crash, the crash of the credit unions, and now the thousands in cities all over the world standing in protest against the banks, their corruption, and excessive fees.  Is this not the same attitude of contempt where they say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will He do harm.”  Up until 2008 we had enjoyed relative peace and security until this spirit of contempt came upon the scene.  Jesus addressed this same spirit of contempt with the Parable of the Talents.  Those who are given talents must share them.  Our gifts are not meant to be hoarded.  Hoarding at its core is a spirit of contempt.  It revels in its self-sufficiency and pride at being able to meet any need at any time.  It doesn’t need to trust anyone else.  And yet all the while it is girded by a fear of lack.  For instance when the artist, engineer, or philosopher is oppressed, s/he cannot ‘reap what they sow or gather where they have not scattered.’ (Mt 25:26)  Even the bank teller who wants to invest his own money cannot do so, when the “Lords of Shechem” are in power with a spirit of contempt.  These “lords” are slaves to their own darkness.  At this point, we cannot even follow Jesus’ advice where the master says to the wicked slave, who hid his money in the ground out of fear,

Mt 25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

With all the bank-gouging going on today, those in power take the interest and tack on fees on top of that as well.  The spiritual darkness oppressing the bank lords (and us) is a spirit of contempt.  It infects the very investors whom they wish to woo.  This courtship can stop.  It can stop first and foremost by identifying what a spirit of contempt is like.  Energetically it is frigidly cold and rock hard.  It is impersonal because it carries no empathy.  Its presence can leave the soul feeling like it is a slow-moving ice flow.  In its wake it leaves ice shards and ice splinters.  Emotionally it is calloused and indifferent.  It lacks spontaneity.  It knows only its own contempt and does not care that it is contemptible.  Its communication style is abrupt, calculating, and cold.  Physically the body perceives it and senses it with full-body tension, shallow breathing, hyper-alertness, rigidity, and an excess amount of gastric acids produced in the stomach.  Even though the body knows that this is what contempt feels like, it cannot “snap out of it.”  It is trapped in its own “thorn bush.”  In the face of Contempt, just as in the face of Fear, it is not our job to rehabilitate these Goons, but to stay focused and counter them with uncommon grace.  To do this Paul says,

1 Thes 5:8 But since we belong to the day [and not to the “night” and “blindness” that comes with it], let us be sober [not clenched in trying to control], and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Those of us who are “alive” and awake have empathy.  Because we have empathy, we “pick up” the nuances and energies around us.  We are not walled off and immune.  We must encourage and build up each other.  So what is missing?  If we are building each other up, but the world is still “weeping and gnashing,” then what’s the missing link?  How come the world is not finding relief from her pregnant birth pangs?  Answer:  Christians are still sitting on their talents and not sharing outside their own homies and their own comfort zones. 

Reach out. 

Breathe. 

Push like a good mama. 

These labor pains we all are living through right now are real.  They are not Braxton-Hicks contractions.  They are here and Now.  “In the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed.”  (Zeph 1:18)  This is passionate love language.  The day we “wake up” to the full-knowing that we are loved and in partnership with God, is a day of entering into the joy of our Master. (Mt 25:21, 23)  We enter that joy when we share.  We’re not just co-creators with God like names on a patent-pending roster; but we work in partnership with Him in the creating process.  We follow Him in this partnership, since we carry His Light and His holy flame within us.

 

22 After Pentecost               13 Nov 2011                                     Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Judges 4:1-7
4:1 The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died.

4:2 So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim.

4:3 Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

4:4 At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel.

4:5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment.

4:6 She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun.

4:7 I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.'”

Psalm 123
123:1 To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

123:2 As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until he has mercy upon us.

123:3 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

123:4 Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
1:7 Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is at hand; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice, he has consecrated his guests.

1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs, those who say in their hearts, “The LORD will not do good, nor will he do harm.”

1:13 Their wealth shall be plundered, and their houses laid waste. Though they build houses, they shall not inhabit them; though they plant vineyards, they shall not drink wine from them.

1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.

1:15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

1:16 a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

1:17 I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the LORD, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

1:18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

90:3 You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.

90:5 You sweep them away; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning;

90:6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.

90:7 For we are consumed by your anger; by your wrath we are overwhelmed.

90:8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

90:9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; our years come to an end like a sigh.

90:10 The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

90:11 Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

90:12 So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.

5:2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

5:3 When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

5:4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief;

5:5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.

5:6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;

5:7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night.

5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

5:9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him.

5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Matthew 25:14-30
25:14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them;

25:15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

25:16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.

25:17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.

25:18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

25:19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

25:20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’

25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’

25:23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

25:24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed;

25:25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

25:26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?

25:27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.

25:28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.

25:29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

25:30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 

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